Sunday, April 15, 2012
The Art of Writing No. 14
To bridge this blog to the last two, let me state that sex and death are inextricably linked in much writing because they are in life. The French call an orgasm un petit mort, as if to emphasise the point. In the BBC series about the neurotic, fat psychoanalyst who helps police solve cases by profiling killers, Cracker, the overweight fellow often refers to the buzz that killers get from killing which makes them want sex before and after murder. I met a Frenchman once who was elated because he had knocked down and killed someone. Now he had achieved this particular ambition in his life. Yet in much of writing, apart from high literature’s deep psychological studies, killing is almost an afterthought. It is wham bam and on to the next scene. When victims are mere ciphers and killers show little thought to death owing to the writer’s pen, then you begin to wonder. Are you writing a superhero comic, a run of the mill crime novel or something which educates and informs? There will be many future blogs on the issue of complexity, moral or otherwise so that’s enough for the moment except to say that all good writing must rest upon the author’s empathy with his or her characters, good or evil.
Azimuth’s three volumes depict, among other things, the gradually changes in a heroic figure as he comes to terms with killing. In this trilogy he deals with (and deals out) death easily at first but begins to realize the enormity of what he has been doing. Meanwhile the historian, Kamil, who has written the hero’s history, also kills under a strange force that leaves him powerless to do otherwise.
Kamil stared at the dripping blade in his hand and a coldness swept his body followed by a momentary exultation which, later, he could not fathom. Was it the relief at his survival or the fact that he had killed for the first time?
You will have to read the books to follow the way that the characters’ experiences change their inner pathologies but nowhere in the book is death taken lightly. Because I, as a writer, have a repugnance for killing, whether by individuals or states, every act of death is a challenge to me to understand the act and empathise with BOTH killer and killed. I don’t want my idealism to result in proseltysing because the reader would see that as a sermon and not true to the awkward and contradictory nature of human profiles. As I said above, as writers we can attempt to understand complexity or we can play by established formulas and do little to advance the cause of human enlightenment.
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